I am awake. My body aches from yesterdays deep sand and miles.
I stumble out from my tent walking towards the laundry room at the campground. I plug in all my devices and consider a shower and then decide against it. I just want a bit of juice before the next unknowable stretch. A guy taps stuff out on his laptop in the corner of the cramped laundry room.
I head back to my camp spot and pack up all my gear and try to eat breakfast. I have no more instant coffee sticks. This distresses me greatly. I know there's a bed and breakfast around the corner from this place. I need coffee right now.
I ask the guy sitting at his laptop if he knows if the bed and breakfast is close by.
"Go just up the road and it's right around the corner" he says.
"Do you think they'd sell me a cup of coffee?"
"If they don't, they'd be assholes. You can come back here and I'll make you a cup." He tells me. He's a traveller and windsurfer. We share an unspoken understanding and this comforts me.
"Thank you." I say, while heaving my pack.
I walk down the road and round the corner. There it is. A huge cozy and intimidating house. I knock on the door with trepidation and feeling like an invader of these good folks peace.
A short man answers. He is very, very high.
"Hello, hi. I am a hiker on the Oregon Coast Trail and I'm all out of coffee this morning. Could I give you a couple bucks for a cup?" I ask in a very shy way.
He looks me up and down and sneers a little. He says nothing to me, and then turns to whisper something to his partner. I can see guests in their house. They're having breakfast and I feel like a rude intruder. His partner, equally as high gives me a very warm greeting. "Hey yeah, you don't need to pay. I'll get you a cup. Cream, sugar?"
"Would you like to come in?" he asks.
I feel terrible. "No! I'm ok. I'm so dirty. I can sit outside. I don't want to disturb you."
He hands me the most beautiful oil slicked, creama on the edges cup of french press I've ever seen. I down it quickly but consciously while watching a slug rear like a pony in the middle of their cobble stone steps. The guy who answered the door asks me what I do for a living. I always feel so weird answering this question.
"I own a small business. We make perfume, soap and bath and body goods from scratch," I say, awkwardly.
We chat about being business owners for a moment. This seems to earn me some respect. He wanders back inside.
I leave a dollar under my cup outside on their table.
I'm back down the beach access I came in on from the night before. I am stressing over walking in that sand again. Fuuuuck, I think. My trail access is just off the beach, not too far. I look and look and see the little blue sign. I turn down a hard to spot beach access down the trail. Eventually when hiking like this, your eyes know where humans have been even if the signs are subtle. The arrows are confusing, the whole area is confusing. None of the trails are on my GPS or maps in my cut up guide book.
I point my way south and walk and walk. Slowly, I relax. I am on a wooded trail. It's beautiful. I see the remnants of stealth camp sites and mushroom picking. The air is soporific, even in July. I stop to change my clothes. For a moment I am naked on the middle of the trail and amused at the thought of someone finding me like this.
I hike fast into an old air strip. I can see on my GPS that I am on an old jeep road, as it is straight. I come to a four way junction and pee in the middle of the trail with an epic bar in my mouth. I laugh at the sight of myself. The sun shines down brightly and the wind whispers through the scrubby pines and salal. I take a left and hike fast. Eventually I snap out of whatever dazed head space I was in and realize I took a wrong turn and was heading east for a mile.
I walk back down the trail I came and I can see the half dried spot where I peed. I turn in the right direction this time.
The trail becomes a little more dark and the whole area feels a little special. Like it is unknown and well kept. This is my favorite part of hiking this trail, the wooded spots just off the coast. I move up and down and over muddy spots and I am happy.
I come to a small clearing of pines, it creates a shelter from the windy tip of the coastal headland called Blacklock Point. Sometimes, in Northwest forests, it feels like you're in a room. A very special room. This is one such room in a forest. Tree trunks as walls, soft duff and moss as beds, nurse logs as pillows.
I can hear the ocean roaring below me, but I cannot see it. I dip down and round a corner and walk up a small path and up onto the open part of the headland. I can see far, far out ahead and into the ocean. I can see the beach I have to walk and, by the looks of it, it is shit sands again. The wind is whipping fiercely. The oceans and waves as they break are muddy and brown due to churned up sand and fierce surging waves. I slowly drop down to the beach via a winding southern trail that somewhat switchbacks the headland.
I am met by thick grey black sand once again and piles of drift logs. Instead of carins, I see sticks strategically placed to mark the way around the logs and rocks. Pockets of tide pools linger and I realize how dangerous this place must be during a high tide. There are wind breaks that people have built out of driftwood here and there. High cliff walls hug me to my left, to my right the angry ocean roars. I feel trapped.
I am trapped, I think.
I have a river crossing ahead of me and in my guide book it says I will either find a very passable sand bar, or it will not be passable at all. Anxiety grips me. What will I find? I don't know. The cliff walls fall away as I walk.
I walk and walk as the wind propels me forward. The sand is thick, just like the shit sand from yesterday. I close my eyes and accept my situation. At least the wind is at my back, I think.
I can see the river forming next to me and a few prints of other hikers maybe, or other people who have walked along it from the same place I came. Who are they? Will I see them?
I walk faster, this unknowable river situation is driving me crazy and the anticipation of knowing what lies ahead drives me forward like a whip.
I relax. The river, known as the Elk River fans out like veins in a leaf into the ocean. I take my shoes off and wade into calf deep sand. It feels good between my toes and cold and I laugh. My tense muscles relax, the sand massages my aching yet numb feet.
I can see a couple beach combing ahead of me. I find a small outcropping of large rocks to sit on and clean my feet. I wrapped KT tape around the balls of my feet, because the inserts in my shoes now have holes in them and the sole of my shoe is pinching my feet causing deep blisters. Only took 100 miles to ruin them. I look into the rock I am sitting on and see bits of jasper and all sorts of colored stones, I shiver and urge the sun to sink into my skin. I eat another packaged bar food, I take a few selfies because in this moment I feel like I conquered something and I feel fresh and beautiful even though I'm tired.
The sand on the beach hardens and I am walking at a wonderful pace. Before me is a lighthouse. I am at Yaquina Head. The cliff walls hug me to my left, the wind whips the sand up. I eventually see the small path leading up into the headland. The wind is so hard and fierce. I come up into rolling meadows, I turn and look back at the beach. The wind takes my hat.
With horror I watch it fly over and into a ditch between two hills. My heart and whole body is struck with the loss.
I CAN'T LOOSE THAT FUCKING HAT. THAT HAT IS EVERYTHING TO ME.
The hat in question is my Black Cobra hat that I bought at a show from the two band members that preform some of the best sludgy doom metal ever in existence. I wade through yarrow, tall grasses and angelica and twist my ankle and then I find it. A small snake slithers though the grass as I snatch at it.
I relax and attach the hat to my chest strap and wind my way back up through the trail. The wind wants to push me over, but I laugh at it. I am suddenly on a road and looking for OCT signs. I find it and can see the most beautiful stretch of meadow on the platue of a high cliff.
Joy grips me that I am not on a beach, the wind tosses me around and I smile at it and the bright sun. All around me is vetch, yarrow and angelica. I can smell their spice in the aggressive wind. I am hip deep in the stuff. I stop and crouch down. Bees are clinging to the yarrow heads. In this moment I realize, I am the most happy. The most happy all trail on this windy head. I want to curl into the dirt under the sun and stay here forever until I die. I pick a little yarrow and ask them to give me the courage to keep walking into the unknown.
After a river crossing and howling winds, loosing my hat and finding it again I came up this cape. I walked sand crusted into a meadow full of angelica, yarrow and massive plantain plants. As I crouched down along the trail, I saw bees hugging flower heads so they wouldn't be beaten up by the winds. I crushed angelica seeds in my fingers and pinched yarrow flower heads, putting my fingers to my mouth and nose. I snuggled into the grasses and flowers like the bees or some kinda critter. This coastal yarrow was the most potent and magical smelling thing. Like spice, hot sand, driftwood... It encapsulated all the beauty and harshness of it's landscape home inside each little flower. Turning the brutality of its existence into beauty. I turned my face to the sun for a blissful moment, I became like a plant too. #oregoncoasttrail #oregoncoast #yarrow #plantspiritmedicine #pacificnorthwest #plantspirit
Eventually the trail turns into a wooded area and I snake my way along a state park that I could sleep at. But the hour is still too early to call it quits. I decide to push into Port Orford for my next and last resupply.
I pause in a sun dappled spot in the woods to check my maps. A little garder snake is next to me on trail and I freeze to watch it. He slows down and pauses too. I look at my maps and watch him at the same time. He loops around some duff and low growing plants and rears up in a small patch of sun. I stare, amused. He's frozen in his reared state, looking at my feet. I slow my movements, so as not to startle him. The I turn away and so does he, back to his world and me, to my own.
I wind down a horse trail. The tread has been chewed up by hooves, but I get it. And I feel out of place being on a horse trail. I have no idea if I'm on the right path or not. All my GPS and map notes give no info about this area.
Eventually, I wade through thick sand and onto the beach. As I drop down I am met by the most powerful winds. I pause as I am smacked again and again by gusts. I turn and head south, feeling insane. Wind has this habit of getting into your mind and tossing you around. It fucks with you. It sweeps up all the old and dusty corners of your mind, the shit you swept under the carpet. It pulls it back up.
And again I find myself so very angry, angry at everyone and everything. I can't control my mind as I stumble through ankle deep sand. The wind gusts at my back so strongly that it sand blasts the back of my calves. It feels like someone is taking sand paper to my legs. Sand is getting into my eyes even with sunglasses on and my rain hood up. For several moments, I can't see and have to cry the sand out of my eyes. I huddle inside of my rain jacket to peek at my GPS and see if there's a way out of here. There isn't. I am stuck until my beach exit.
Eventually I find a crack in the high cliff walls. The wind is much more calm, but it swirls in such a way that sand still gets into my eyes. I put on my thermals because at this rate, my legs will be raw by the time I'm off this beach.
I am miserable.
I walk and walk, deep pain in my legs radiate up my body. I cry a little. I am so infuriated that this won't stop. The beach goes on and on and doesn't seem to end.
Eventually, I find it: the beach exit. My feet grip onto an old gravel road with joy.
I stop and collapse into the dirt and grasses. I rip my shoes off, my thermal pants, my rain jacket. I am so hot now.
I am going to fucking quit. I am fucking done, I think. If this town gives me any shit. I am done.
My feet are tore up because my shoes are awful. But I look on the bright side, I'm off that damned fucking beach. Fuck that beach. Fuck beaches! I think.
I heave my pack and make my way down a paved road that will take me into Port Oreford. I hold my trekking poles in my right hand.
Suddenly a fat swollen blue healer charges at me snarling and barking. I push and guide him away from me with my poles (god bless these poles). A woman rounds the corner with a pack of yapping angry dogs.
"Oh you're fine!" She says. "They're just nervous when they meet new people."
NERVOUS DOGS ARE DOGS THAT USUALLY BITE PEOPLE.
I say nothing and keep walking. I enter 101 and into the small town of Port Oreford. I have 15 minutes till the post office closes and I make it 5 minutes till.
"Ahh, no package here for Boyd. I'm sorry. You can try again tomorrow," says the mail clerk.
I drop out into the street. I'm fucking done.
Back before I began this hike I had one major destination: The Crazy Norwegian. Which is less than a half mile from me right now. I decide to order food there, and make my decision about continuing this hike.
I find it, in all its shabby glory. I step in. Sand crusted, red, wind blown. Everyone stops and stares at me. I don't fucking care anymore. I find a small seat in the corner of the restaurant. Across from me is a young man who is looking me over and accessing me and my situation. I am crouched between the tables.
"Are you two together?" The server asks.
"Yeah we are," say the young man. "I mean if you want company while you eat. You look like you're alone, is that ok?" he says to me.
"Yeah sure, company sounds good right now." I flop down into the seat across from him.
I am rubbing sand from my face and apologizing to my new friend. "I'm sorry, I just came in off the beach from hiking. I am so dirty and in a weird head space."
"It's ok. You look like you have a story."
So I tell him everything over fish and chips and key lime pie. I am unapologetic in my ravenous eating. "I think I'm done. I don't know. Everything feels like it's telling me to be done."
I am confiding in this total stranger named Nico. A young engineering graduate from Ohio. He decided to do a very long road trip until he found the right place to land. He's been on the road for two months. He's interested in water conservation. He wears glasses and has thick curly tousled hair.
"I planned on driving to Portland tonight if you want a ride home," he offers.
A gaggle of older women walk into the restaurant and sit behind us. One of them thinks I have a baby in my pack. Nico and I laugh about this all the way to a nearby bar, where he tells me to make my decision about taking a ride back home to Portland.
We drink two IPA's. I discuss the trail and these beaches with him when a guy next to us chimes in, "These are some of the most deadly beaches in Oregon. I grew up here."
Everything says go home right now. I pull tarot cards on it.
Go home, it says.
"OK Nico, let's go to Portland," I say.
We load up into his old Honda Accord. We get Dairy Queen. He smokes weed. I get drowsy. We drive and drive. I am catapulted back into the stink of Portland. He stops in front of my apartment and asks nothing from me which feels like a relief right now. We wish each other safe journeys.
I walk up to the door of my apartment shaking. Inside is my boyfriend and he has no idea I am coming home. I knock, because the key to my house is at the bottom of my pack. I hear nothing. So I dig into my pack looking for the key, he opens the door. We're so very happy to see each other. I am shaking and feeling strange. I can't smell sea air anymore. I am suddenly enveloped in the smells of him and my apartment. We sit on my bed together. Bits of the coast flash inside of my head. I am not here, I am still there. I don't want to be here. Why did I come back?
He wants my attention and tugs at me, but I space out. The past 24 hours have been so weird and intense and now I am home. It's all over. I slip into my shower, absorbed in a familiar water pressure and soap scents. I am happy, but cannot find a deep contentment in this.
Something is missing. I can hear the roar of the ocean in my ears, still. I gave up.
Everything is different now and it's all over.
Yet, everything has just begun.